How does UTR Work? - Understanding the UTR Algorithm

UTR tennis

If you play tennis in college or if you are planning to, you have probably heard about UTR and the UTR algorithm. As an international student-athlete, I had no idea what it even meant. As a matter of fact, nobody in the world of tennis in my club could help me with that.

UTR tennis is a rating system that ranges from 1 to 16.5 supposed to reflect your actual level of play. The UTR algorithm uses three main factors to understand your level: Competition, Score, and Recent History. Compared to other rating systems, I believe that UTR does a good job of evaluating how good a player is at any moment. I also really like the fact that men and women are on the same scale. Therefore, you could spend time comparing Serena Williams UTR 13.14 to men players you know to see if they could beat her.

What is a UTR tennis Rating? and Why You Should Have One?

A UTR tennis rating is a rating attributed to tennis players all around the world. Although UTR is most common in the US or in Australia, you can get a UTR rating in Europe as long as you play an international tournament. You can also create an account and submit your matches to UTR and they might record it for you. This rating serves as a measure of someone’s level at a certain point in time based on the last 30 matches you played. It is a widely recognized and accepted rating system in the tennis world.

Having a UTR rating will be beneficial for you in several ways. UTR always looks forward to creating new tournaments and giving the opportunity for tennis players to compete with each other. If you already have a UTR rating, it will allow you to enter into those tournaments, and maybe be seeded and have a better draw. The list of tournaments provided by UTR can be found on their website.

The second reason why you should have a UTR rating is credibility to college coaches. If you desire to be recruited in a College tennis team, your UTR rating is the go-to ranking for tennis coaches to evaluate your level. You will find later in this article what UTR ratings mean to College coaches, and how “good’ you need to be ranked in order to either get a scholarship/ or walk on a college tennis team.

Understanding the UTR Algorithm

UTR tennis algorithm

How does UTR Work? Understanding the UTR algorithm is fundamental for tennis players. It allows you to prepare your schedule to peak at the right moment, and have your best ranking when contacting college coaches. 

According to myutr.com

“For each match, the algorithm calculates a match rating and a match weight for each player. A player’s UTR is the weighted average of up to 30 of their most recent match ratings. Only matches within the last 12 months count toward a player’s UTR.”

So, the match rating and the match weight are important, but what are they?

How to calculate the match rating?

The first factor is the difference in rating between the players. The second factor is the percentage of games won during the match, also referred to as “competitiveness”. However, one would argue that the competitiveness of the match does not reflect on the number of games won. This way seems to reward good servers more than average ones.

The algorithm will expect you to score a certain number of games against a certain UTR level opponent. It is interesting to note that your UTR rating increases the same amount as your opponent’s UTR decreases—if you win of course—.

How to calculate the match weight?

Once again, according to the UTR algorithm, 4 factors are taken into account for calculating the match weight. Those factors are:

  1. Competitiveness: As the UTR difference decreases, less weight is given to the match.
  2. Format: The longer the format, the more reliable, thus the more weight given.
  3. Reliability: Th more matches played by an individual, the more reliable his rating is. The algorithm will, therefore, give more weight to the match.
  4. Time Degradation: As time goes by, the older matches play a significantly reduced role in calculating your overall UTR rating.
One would argue that this algorithm is flawed. For example, you might play an amazing match against a strong player that just happens to not play any UTR event in the last 12 months. In this case, his rating would be unreliable, and the match weight would be insignificant. 
However, I believe that UTR does a great job nonetheless. The only way the algorithm would be close to perfect is by having more statistics for the match— such as % of first serves, % of second serves, % of points won after first serve…—.

How do I increase my UTR?

There are many ways to increase your UTR tennis rating, as there are many ways to increase your objective tennis level. Increasing your level would ultimately result in an increase in your UTR rating if you play enough matches. To increase your intrinsic level, here is a non-exhaustive list of actions I would recommend:

1. Compete: Gain more experience by increasing your number of matches played in a year. If you play less than 50 matches per year, you are definitely not competing enough.

2. Practice: Get a personal coach, or play more often with your group of friends. Practice makes better in a lot of fields, but especially in tennis. If you cannot afford a coach, I would recommend you to work on your serve with a basket. You can also get a camera, or your phone, to film yourself playing and learn from it.

3. Research and Watch: Researching about tennis is the best way to understand the game better. There are many free resources available online that you can use in order to fix some details of your game. Watching professional tennis tournaments is also a great tool that will help your brain understand the strategy in tennis, but also remind you of key technical approaches. When watching a tennis match, the same neurons in your brain will be activated as they would if you were playing tennis.

 

How to "cheat" the UTR algorithm?

Now, from a UTR stand point, there are also obvious ways to “cheat” the algorithm:

1. Be a more consistent player: When you “tank” matches, the algorithm clearly thinks that the opponent was way better than you, even though the match could have been close. Being consistent will also allow you to win more games and score more points for the algorithm.

2. Focus on your serve: If you never lose a service game, you will never see your UTR drop considerably from a 6-1 6-1 loss. Take Karlovic for example, going to the tie-break at 6-6 in every set, will likely assure him a higher UTR than a Nick Kyrgios or a Benoit Paire.

3. Peak at the right time: Your UTR ranking only reflects your last 30 matches. Therefore, if you plan on contacting college coaches for a scholarship opportunity, you should be really active on UTR tournaments. This way, your ranking will be more reliable to coaches, and you will have greater chances of being recruited.

Is my UTR high enough to play in college?

UTR is an important indication for college coaches when they are recruiting you. It is truly the first thing they will look at. But what is a good enough UTR for College tennis? I answer this question in details here.

To make this answer short, I will just say that it depends on the level of the school you are applying to. If you are looking to get an athletic scholarship, the standards will be way higher. To my knowledge, if you are lucky, you could get a scholarship with a 10 UTR, but it will only be a partial one. Full scholarships are usually given to players who will be at the top of the line up. You can easily check the UTR of the number 1,2, and 3 of your dream school to see if you would make the cut.

The search engine on UTR is quite simple, and creating an account is free, so definitely check it out here.

federer utr

How does UTR work for Doubles?

The doubles UTR rating essentially works in the same way as the single’s UTR algorithm. Instead of comparing each individual’s rating, the algorithm will take the average UTR of team A and the average UTR of team B to compute the match weight and rating. 

Given the difference in the average UTR of each team, the algorithm will expect you to win a certain percentage of games. If you win more games that what your team is expected to, your UTR will increase by the same amount amongst doubles partner. If you score less than expected, both partners’ UTR will decrease by the same amount. 

As far as college recruiting is concerned, college coaches like to recruit players who are both proficient in singles and in doubles. Only in some rare occasions would they recruit a doubles’ specialist to only play doubles matches, as the number of scholarships is limited. However, in Division 3 schools, or schools with no scholarship, it is not impossible to play only in the doubles’ lineup.

Conclusion

The UTR algorithm is focusing on the player’s current level, basing its calculations on the last 30 matches played. Yes, UTR has its flaws, but it does a great job at putting every player regardless of their gender, on the same scale from 1 to 16.5.

If you aspire to play college tennis, and get a scholarship, you will need to understand how this algorithm work, and how to increase your UTR. 

Moreover, UTR is partnering with ITA to offer a wide range of tournaments for college and high school players across the United States. I also really like the fact that this organization is hosting tons of tennis tournaments worldwide, and therefore, contributing to the tennis community as a whole.

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